Which came first? LO20451

AM de Lange (amdelange@gold.up.ac.za)
Thu, 21 Jan 1999 15:36:13 +0200

Replying to LO20333 --

Dear Organlearners,

John Gunkler <jgunkler@sprintmail.com> writes:

>System dynamics models attempt to provide guidance to
>decision makers and, thus, become part of the system being
>modeled. Sophisticated practitioners are aware of the
>interaction between model (Gray's "theory") and system and
>use this to help change the system in desirable ways.

Greetings John,

It may appear as if we have bifurcated into another thread since the
thread above refered originally to creativity and learning. But in this
contribution the thread points to a third member, one which comes before
creativity or learning. See if you can find it. I have avoided any direct
reference to it.

You have illustrated once again how important wholeness is to irreversible
self-organising systems. The guiding theory or model cannot be fragmented
from the dynamics of the system.

We create our theories and models in terms of measurements. One of the
insights afforded by modern disciplines of physics such as quantum
mechanics or irreversible thermodynamics is that the measurement has an
undeniable effect on the system. In other words, our account of the
system's dynamics has to include the influence of measurement on the

All these inclusions point to one ultimate inclusion, namely the person
who investigate the system's dynamics. Thus the notion of a detached
investigator has to give way. There is not such a thing as absolute
objectivity. But this do not vindicate a narcistic investigator.

All these comments have an important bearing on the internal foundation of
system dynamics. Every theory or model has to begin somewhere -- something
which we may call the primitives, DNA or foundation. The foundation of
mathematics is logic while the foundation of physics and chemistry is the
scientific method. But what is the foundation of system dynamics
applicable to all human organisations? I think that it has very much to do
with Husserl's phenomenology -- knowing what is essential to any human
organisation. In other words, the foundation of system dynamics has to
begin with something which is essential to all human organisations.

When we begin to apply phenomenological reduction to discover that which
is essential to human organisations, it leads to a staggering number of
essences, among others language, cognition, creativity and spirituality.
In other words, we have not one essence which we then will use, but many
essences from which we can choose. How many will we choose? If it is one,
which one? If it is some, which ones? If it is all, how sure are we that
we have discovered all of them?

What we observe today is the dazzling variety of possible combinations,
some of which have led to the many exisiting theories and models for
system dynamics. Even more astounding is the chaotic dispersion between
all the possibilities. Total Systems Intervention has been offered to
chose one or more of the possibilities. But even TSI cannot handel the
increase in chaos.

So, why not considering chaos as a possible essence of human
organisations. Yes, phenomenological reduction shows that chaos is indeed
essential. But so is also other topics of complexity studies like order,
bifurcation, adaption, sustenation, autopoiesis, etc. In other words, we
have the same melody (chaotic dispersion), but only new words to it from
the so-called New Science.

The way I see it, this increasing chaotic dispersion results from
anthropocentrism, our preoccupation with the humankind and culture. This
anthropocentrism, being different from reality, sets up a force/
tension/dissonance. This "force" helps to increase the chaos of theories
and models. To let this chaos emerge into order, we have to proceed to the
edge of chaos and hence the desired bifurcation. Thus we have to break
this isolation of anthropocentrism and open ourselves up to all sorts of
other systems until we have covered the entire reality.

What is reality? The least we will have to do, is to scan all the
perceptions of all humans since times immemorial which we can lay our
hands on. Then we will have to uncover phenomenologically the essences of
all the systems (facets, dimensions) implicit to such percpetions. It is
then when the horror of full complexity looms before us. Is it possible,
bearing in mind our limitations?

Well, the least we should do, is to acquire some experiences in this task.
One way to do it, is to go regularly to a large academical library and
study for a few hours a book or two. Do not skip any subject and do not
concentrate on any particular subject. Browse through books of all ages,
thick and thin, expensive and cheap, avoiding any preferances, even
language. When you close a book after having studied it, ask yourself two
questions. What system(s) did the book pertained to? What are the essences
of these systems? I have been doing it since I have discovered the seven
essentialities about 15 years ago, trying to increase and elevate my
understanding of the seven essentialities. (Remember that the seven
essentialities form a special set of essences.)

What have I learnt? There are thousands of essences in a dazzling variety.
They can all be connected to the seven essntialities. The most frequent
essence is "temporal unfolding". I know that I use a rather strange phrase
for it, but it articulates best my understanding. (It is a translation of
the word "tydontplooiing" in my mother tongue Afrikaans.) Another phrase
which I can use to describe the same essence, is "the creative course of
time". I also could have used words like "development", "progression" and
"evolution", but then I will have to deepen their meanings beyond their
technical meanings.

I am pretty sure that when we decide on a foundation for our system
dynamics, it will have to be intimately related to "temporal unfolding" or
"the creative course of time". It has become fashion today to criticise
Newton's break-through work, trying to avoid it like the plague. But we
must never forget that for more than 300 years Newton's work did something
unprecedented in the history of mankind. It provided us with a model
which explained and predicted the temporal progression of a particular
kind of system. Likewise, in system dynamics, our greatest need is to
explain the past of human organisations and predict their future. If the
foundation do not reflect this need, how much hope can we have the system
dynamics to trace the creative course of time?

Best wishes


At de Lange <amdelange@gold.up.ac.za> Snailmail: A M de Lange Gold Fields Computer Centre Faculty of Science - University of Pretoria Pretoria 0001 - Rep of South Africa

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